Content Marketing, a ‘buzz phrase’ that umpteen blogs and articles are all talking about. Just when you think you have a handle on it, ‘they’ (the experts, unseen and anonymous) tell us we should be measuring the return of investment of content.
But, is there some mileage in it?
Always conscious of exploring new avenues and thinking outside of The Box within which we all function, we thought we take a closer look at this whole return of investment thing. Is it worth the hassle? And when/if we complete the exercise, what does it actually tell us? Is this information of any use?
Who invented Content Marketing?
You can and will be forgiven for thinking that content marketing is a relatively new and modern thing; in relation to the web, it is but it is a concept that has been around for far longer than this.
Those of you who live or work in agriculture will be familiar with John Deere. Deere, a manufacturing of all kinds of farming implements and machinery, including tractors is a name synonymous with farming and quality products.
And, it is also a company knowing within brand publishing circles. If we are to attribute content marketing as an invention of one person or company then many people have plumped for John Deere.
For over a century, John Deere has been producing The Furrow, a magazine stuffed full of jolly interesting stuff for the farmer, from 1895 to today. And, the return of investment on The Furrow is immense, especially when measures over the 100 years plus that it has been circulating.
There are all kinds of metrics and data against which your content marketing can be measured but, we are sure we have spouted this before – content is about a marathon, not a sprint. If you are expecting an immediate, 30 day return on your investment you may be disappointed. However, when your content does bear fruit, the results can be nothing short of incredible. And very, very welcome to local, online businesses.
The lesson remains the same…
…For now, at least with content marketing experts, including those at The Furrow, still saying that the value of content lies in its value to the consumer. This value, matched with effective distribution is perfection but, it may not be the language that executives speak.
Budgets are tight and business executives want to know what they are getting for their money; is all this money they seem to be sending on creating content, matched by the portion of marketing budget spent on Hootsuite, Buffer and subscription-type services for distribution of this content actually returning – how much money does each blog, post, tweet or pin bring in?
Is it all about money?
First things first, if you get stuck in the eternal spiral of making money, then you will not see all of the value in content marketing. It is not there simply as an avenue of cash. Being online with your business is not just about selling, it is about engaging with people.
Thus, your content needs to do 4 things:
- Be attractive – people are the lynch pin of any business; without people, there are no customers and your content marketing should be people-centric. However, on the flip side of the coin are the all-powerful, all-seeing and all-seeking search engines. If they don’t like your website and your content, then you are, to use a technical term within content marketing, ‘a bit stuffed’.
- Present ‘your’ personality – not your own personal one but your company/business/brand. Content is a two-way conversation, rather than a one-sided advert. Think about what you expect when you approach a company for help or advice; what do you think your customer expectations are when they talk to you?
- Build loyalty & trust – where would be without those returning customers? For some businesses too, working with customers is not a one-off transaction; it is a relationships that grows and builds over time and thus, if you in this kind of industry your content must reflect this.
- Authority – not the sergeant-major type of ‘listen to me, and to me only’, but rather a reflection of your knowledge. Content marketing should reflect high value information to your customers or clients.
“We do all those! Job done…”
Not quite. Whilst you can certainly bask in the golden light and ripples of applause for having all these factors in your content marketing, they are not measurable in the format above.
You need a bit more hard data than that.
Time – the enemy of so many, but with content marketing and its return of investment you simply must bear in mind that it can take search engines and people anything from a week to months to discover a piece of content.
The metrics that could be useful
Thus, we suggest 4 metrics that can be used as measuring sticks as to whether your content marketing is hitting the mark, or any mark at all. And, for those shy about digits and numbers, they are not too onerous…
- Consumption metrics
Google Analytics, for example, show consumption metrics that include exciting things such as total visits to your website/pages, unique visits, downloads, time spent on site, cost per visitor and bounce rate.
What you are looking for – how is your data or content being consumed by visitors and, even better, it how they find it. For example, they may have read your blog, navigated to the ‘about page’, had a look at the ‘products pages’ and then sent you an enquiry is your contact form.
Well, actually, these statistics can show where people are landing on your website and what happens next. If they find your blog interesting, but then go to another page then navigate away, the content marketing is only performing part of its job. Don’t forget you website is a live, living and breathing ‘thing’, maybe it needs a tweak or two?
- Lead-generation metrics
Now we are talking carrots, but no sticks approach to hooking leads – leads, in this sense, being potential customers.
If you have a contact form and this is central to your business, you need and want people to complete it and return to you. If you metrics show you have plenty of website visitors but not many leads, something is adrift.
If this is your kind of online business, how much do you annually spend on content marketing (a)? How much does it cost to promote and distribute it (b)? Add these two figures together. On average, on each lead how much does the customer spend (c)? Follow the math and you have the number of leads you need to break even…
(a + b) ÷ average value of c = number of break even ‘leads’ needed
You may find this breakeven figure a startling one, and one which unless monitored could mean that our business is falling short…
- Sharing metrics
Social media likes, shares, pins etc. are far more difficult to quantify in terms of pound sterling BUT, they are useful vehicles for generating traffic to your website. We have talked in the past about social signals and these share metrics are about engagement, rather than the money they make you.
Sometimes, too much weight is attributed to share metrics so take care not to throw everything at your social media but, they can be a useful indicator of how people are finding and engaging with you.
- Sales metrics
This is possibly the simplest statistic – is your content marketing turning people in to paying customers? If you set out with this as your primary aim of the content, then this is your primary metric to measure.
If, however, you use your content to increase referrals and engagement, then this becomes secondary.
If sales is what you are wanting from your content marketing then this metric will tell you, over time, what type of content is bringing paying customers to you… or not, as the case may be.
The bottom line
You do need some idea of what it, and what is not working when it comes to content marketing; after all, you wouldn’t knowingly keep throwing money after bad, would you?